I remember your
actual directorial debut happened when you replaced Anurag Basu in Tumsa Nahi
Yes, the shooting
of that film had stopped mid way as Anurag was unwell and at that time Bhatt
Saab had gone to Switzerland to meet UG Krishnamurthy and I was about to start
my first film Zeher. Like any other new comer, I was thinking that why
should I take over another director’s film. I still remember that day when I
got a call and I was about to go and watch the promos of the film. The promos
were ready by then. I considered telling Mukesh ji that I was not interested in
starting my career in such a fashion by taking someone else’s film. I was
thinking in a selfish way. That day I got a call from an unknown number and it
was a call from Anurag Basu. He had called from the hospital, using his ward
boy’s mobile phone and he requested me to complete the shooting schedule of an
actor who was about to leave for the US for stage shows. His extra dates were
not with us and Anurag wanted the film to be completed. At that time I wished
the ground beneath me would crack open and swallow me. I was thinking selfishly
about myself while this man was struggling for his life. He asked for a basic
thing. I have seen many directors who announce pack-up at the sound of a mere
sneeze and here was a man who was struggling for his life and was unaware if he
will come out of it. Anurag taught me a lot with that one incident, that a film
is beyond everything and I think that gave me the courage to go and take it up.
You are being
very honest? Where does this frankness stem from?
I think it takes
more effort to pretend to be someone else. I have tried in the past to become
someone else but I have always failed. I still remember working with Jackie
Shroff and at that time I was busy with Raaz. He had told me that people work
less when they become a director but tu kaam jyada karta hai. I think it was an
eye opener that such a senior person can recognize something like that and it’s
about time that you stop pretending to be someone else. It’s a fact that I do
come from a family of directors – Mr. Bhatt, Milan Luthria, Dharmesh Darshan –
they are all my cousins and yes, we are a pedigree. My grandfather too was a
director. I have realized one thing that, to be successful you have to speak in
your own voice. Bhatt Saab has often told me that I am the biggest monkey to
have gotten off his back. He was the first person to say that after Aashiqui 2,
I found a voice of my own and now I should go out on my own. He had told me
that I don’t need his name anymore to piggyback on. Only a big man can say
something like this. I remember telling Bhatt Saab that I hope Aashiqui does
well, because of the sole reason that I have put my voice in it and at least
the country knows and accepts the person that I am. If you see, my cinema
changed after that. I got more emotional about my film. My music became
On a personal
level I was hoping for Hamari Adhuri Kahani to do well and when it didn’t, it
sort of disappointed me.
I am 11-films-old
today though I am 36 years of age.
Images Source: hdimages
That’s a superb
achievement I would say...
Yes, just as I
informed you earlier, when I started I was just happy making films. I was
making one film every year. I think it’s important to have flops and it’s
important to have films that don’t do well. It’s because they teach you more
and it’s more fun in the game. Somewhere down the line, if there were only
hits, I would start taking things for granted. Today I am in a new phase of my
life, as I have become a producer with Half Girlfriend. This has not happened
because I wanted another title to myself or wanted more money, there is nothing
like that. For me it’s all about challenging myself. We were just happy making
our first film and this was the next step to do. I peaked as a director making
films for somebody else. I realized that there is nothing more for me to do as
a director because then everything will become a cycle, so unless I challenge
myself, I will not grow as a person. This is the same thing I felt when I was
an assistant. I had assisted in 8 films before I became a director. I remember meeting
Mukesh ji and Bhatt saab and telling them that I wanted to become a director.
Vikram Bhatt was doing so well that time and he used to pay us handsomely.
Kasoor was my first film as an AD and because of the money I got, I even
managed a second hand car for myself. At the same time the thought that I will
become dependent on the existing set-up started bothering me. If I hadn’t taken
then leap then, I would have never become a director. I had the same feeling
before Half Girlfriend that if I kept going on as a director and kept working
for people, there will be a fatigue. I tried to push the bar and decided to
take more risk and I think that has kept me alive.
If there was a
tug of war between Ekta Kapoor and Mukesh Bhatt over you, who do you think will
win the game?
Well I will
always give credit to Mukesh Ji for making me who I am today. Well I can’t
forget the fact that I was ek raaste par baitha hua ladke tha and he was
someone who picked me up. I had no clue what I wanted from life. My father was
not around and my mother was no more. I was quite lost as everyone in this
country at the age of 16 and 17 is. I still remember I was travelling alone in
my car for the trailer launch of Half Girlfriend and I was thinking about it.
The only thing I could feel was gratitude towards Ekta and Bhatt saab. There is
no tug of war here, whoever I am, whatever I am is because of what they have
I think Ekta
tried poaching you even before Awarapan released?
Ekta kept calling
me even after the failure of Awarapan and asking me to do a film. There is a
very interesting story. Ekta was jogging in Juhu and fortunately I was there. I
saw Ekta and then I tried hiding my face, feeling ashamed. I was thinking that
she will avoid me and won’t acknowledge me after the failure of Awarapan. It
was sheer luck that as she was passing by a tree branch fell on her and she
turned around trying to figure out who threw the branch. Then she saw me and
said, ‘Mohit, I loved your film, please come and meet me’. And now it feels
amazing that some people did believe that I would get somewhere no matter how
my films fared. All these years she was under the impression that I had thrown
the branch to get her attention.
How was the phase
between the release of HAK and picking Half Girlfriend as your next project?
To be honest, I
don’t know what to do with myself when I am not making a film. It was not
because of the setback of HAK but the fact that my role was changing. From a
director I was turning into a producer. The whole decision making process was
taking a little longer and that’s why I admire Mukesh Ji and Bhatt Saab. They
have made 60 odd films in such a short span of time. I still had Chetan (Chetan
Bhagat) and Ekta by my side. The process took almost a year to start so I was
very lost at that point of time. I don’t blame anyone for the failure but
myself. I was just lost, not making a film and not being on the sets but that’s
what came out of my film. I started a music label called EMI music along with
Universal where I am launching new talents. I channel my energy in different
things and that has given me a lot of satisfaction today.
Image Source: scontent.cdninstagram
I am sure you had
25 odd scripts in front of you, why did you pick Half Girlfriend?
I think some
things just work with coincidence and for this, the credit must go to Chetan
Bhagat. I think he cast me. He gave me the book before the book was formally
launched and at that time I had thought that judging by the title of the book,
it must be a romcom. I was actually wondering why has he given me the book. But
when I read the book, it had pathos and angst, which Chetan had noticed in my
films, plus there was this whole musical angle too in the book. Then Chetan
approached me and said that I was the most suitable person to direct the film.
That is the precise reason people were shocked when they saw the trailer. They
were expecting something light hearted but they got some intensity. I like
surprising people. Be it turning Riteish into a villain, or changing the
chocolate boy image of Sidharth in Ek Villain, or even casting Adi and Shraddha
for Aashiqui 2.
Had you visited
Bihar before the shoot of Half Girlfriend?
I had been there
but just promote my films. Staying at Chanakya hotel in Patna does not mean
visiting Bihar. Chanakya hotel can be anywhere in India.
Images Source: hdimages
So how were you
able to get the milieu right?
friends in college with Shailesh Ji who is Lalu Ji’s son-in-law. Somewhere the
character of Shailesh in this book is sort of inspired from him and then he
connected me to his assistant, Shishir. It was Shishir who introduced me to
what Patna or Bihar is today and it was an eye-opener. If you go to Bihar then
you will realize that Bihar has the richest culture be it Nalanda University,
Chandragupta Maurya or Sher Shah Suri. It has an amazing cultural and
educational background. When I went to shoot there, I had never seen so many
ads of educational institutes. People over there believe that if you have
education then you can become something in life. Over here there is a
misconception that if you speak English then you know a lot. When I went there,
I realized that people over there have much more aptitude than me. They see
India as it is while we see it through an Americanized filter. When I was
dating my wife, she took me around India. She took me to Banaras, Dehradun
etc. I remember when I was doing my recce; I kept messaging her and
telling her thank you for showing me this part of the world because I was all
along a Bandra boy. I was born and brought up on Carter Road, Bandra. And I had
this mental hypocrisy, that if you speak English then you are intelligent. I
discovered India with this film.
Finally you must
have shown your film to someone whose opinion you value. What was the verdict?
I will be honest
with this and that one person will be Bhatt Saab. I still remember that during
the release of Ek Villain he was constantly requesting me to show him the film.
He was only saying that because he cared about me and he actually genuinely
believed that if the film was a success, then people would say that it was he
who did all the work. But somehow being from the same family and form the same
genetic tree, I turned around and said, ‘Bhatt Saab I don’t want to do it, not
for anything else but I will psychologically be dependent on you for the rest
of my life and I want to cut this umbilical cord. I have grown up and its time
that as a father you leave the cycle and let me cycle on my own. If I fall, I
fall and if I ride then this it’s me.’ Bhatt Saab does not teach you anything
about films, he teaches you how to be a person and find your voice. Whether
it’s me or Kunal Deshmukh or Anurag Basu, he makes us find our own voice. There
is nothing about cinema that we learn from him. What we learn from him is how
to live as a man and as a person. So I think I turned around and said just that
to him and he respected that. He was the first person to come to the 100
crore success party of Ek Villain. You know how he is, but he came for it. I
sent him Half Girlfriend’s promo and he sent me his feedback although he was
busy with Begum Jaan’s promotion.
Thumbnail Images Source:hdimages